Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 13. 1 Kgs 3-5

Today's readings are 1 Kgs 3-5.

1 Kings 3:1 depicts Solomon making his first major decision as king, and it is a questionable one. He forms an alliance with Egypt and takes a Gentile as his wife. Marriage to a non-Jew was prohibited by the early patriarchs as it posed the danger of assuming foreign gods in the process. Later, we’ll find out that Pharaoh’s daughter was not the first Gentile woman Solomon took as a wife (1 Kgs 14:21), who has Solomon’s oldest son, Rehoboam, a name we will see again. 

In marrying Pharaoh's daughter, Solomon signifies that Egypt and Israel can live in close alliance with each other. The marriage is symbolic of Israel uniting herself with Egypt. This is not merely a commerce or trade agreement, it is more of a union.  None of this conforms to what God commanded Israel to do. Israel does not need alliances like this with pagan nations to prosper. God has promised to sustain and protect them.

Furthermore, in 1 Kgs 3:2, we hear that the people are making sacrifices in “the high places.” Where the ESV uses “only,” the NIV introduces this phrase with “However,” the NASB with “But the people were still sacrificing on…” While this may sound admirable, the “high places” around Jerusalem may well have been abandoned captured altars to pagan gods. Mosaic law demanded that these places be destroyed (Dt 7:5; 12:3). They were a threat to the purity of worship to God and represented a compromise in the holiness of His people. Any location for sacrifice or worship was to be built were God prescribed, not co-opted from another god.

While these factors are a concern, they do not mitigate the truth that Solomon is God’s man of the hour. He is a faithful follower of Yahweh (1 Kgs 3:3) and passionately trying to emulate his father. Despite his dedication to God and his father, Solomon also sacrifices in the high places. Again, some of the other translations help us understand this is problematic. While the ESV translates it this way, “only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places.” The NASB renders it a bit differently saying, “except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places” as does the NIV.

None of these decisions and actions disqualifies Solomon from God’s blessing, as we will see. But they do expose some personality traits that, if they are allowed to develop unchecked, can be devastating.

Nonetheless, God grants Solomon anything he desires. He asks for wisdom, which God gives him, more than any man has ever had or will ever have. God also grants him great wealth and power (1 Kgs 3:5-15).
Solomon's kingdom expands as he begins to flex the muscles of his newly-bestowed wisdom. He appoints his court, using perhaps some of the same people who were so loyal to David (1 Kgs 4:1-18). He also creates twelve regions in Israel to facilitate control of taxation and labor.

Solomon, using the wisdom God has blessed him with, has turned Israel into a model for all other nations, one with a sophisticated and centralized government and a godly king. This is what Israel is supposed to be, a testimony of the presence of God and godly people to the world, conducting commerce and trade outside its border but maintaining holiness within. This will eventually become the model for the church.

In 1 Kgs 5, preparations to build Temple begin. This is a huge moment for Israel, a permanent home for God among His people, tangible evidence, not just of His presence, but of their abundance and blessing. Solomon is blessed with incredible wisdom and favor among the rulers in the region. There is peace under Solomon's rule. Still, he drafts 30,000 workers from among the people of Israel, something Samuel warned against (I Sam 8:11-12, 16). He also conscripted another 150,000 that were non-Israelites.
A compelling facet of all this is that Hiram and a large number of Gentiles worked on the construction. There’s a vague hint in this that the temple will become a “house of prayer for all nations.”

As we progress through 1 Kings, we’ll see that Solomon’s seemingly minor infractions committed at the beginning of his reign will have a disastrous impact later.

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